San Antonio Express News reports on the attempted forfeitures of two houses owned by Dr. Sindy Chapa, Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Latinos Media and Markets at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University.
“Chapa hasn’t been charged with a crime, and an affidavit by an Internal Revenue Service agent explaining why the feds think they should have the house has been sealed. But in the public court filings, prosecutors allege the property was bought with proceeds of criminal activity….
“It’s not unusual for San Antonio prosecutors to seal affidavits outlining why they want property forfeited, but in recent high-profile cases, the owners have been out of the country. This is a rare situation in which the property owner is in the U.S. and could potentially contest the forfeiture.” Jason Buch and Guillermo Contreras, “Texas State professor’s property targeted by feds,” San Antonio Express News, 5 Sept. 2012.
Any speculation on the strength of the government’s case or the relative innocence of Dr. Chapa is premature. We simply don’t know much (beyond a rumored romantic relation with Tomás Jesús Yarrington Ruvalcaba) because the DOJ was successful in keeping the supporting reasons secret. Still, it is unsettling to hear that San Antonio prosecutors regularly use sealed affidavits in civil asset forfeitures (and even more so if prosecutors are employing a concerted strategy to capture property while potential claimants are away).